Banjul is one of the best examples of urban Africa. The sand-blown streets play host to colorful markets and fading colonial buildings, and a sense of history permeates every district. The Gambian capital may be one Africa’s smallest cities, but it has a big personality not soon forgotten by travelers.
The Royal Albert Market is the bustling heart of Banjul. Named after the husband of Queen victoria, the market is an extensive emporium that comes alive with pungent aromas, lively scenes and the hum of shoppers and sellers haggling over prices on everything from vivid, shimmering fabrics and shining silver jewelry to fresh produce and the latest electronics. Packed to the brim, the market’s labyrinth of alleys are a great place to immerse yourself in Gambian culture. Visitors should not hesitate to bargain; most goods can be purchased for just half the asking price!
The National Museum offers a good introduction to the country’s history. The wide range of exhibits covers everything from medieval trans-Saharan trade to, oddly, the dress beauty pageant queen Miss Gambia wore in 1984. The dusty display of photographs, maps and documents detailing Gambia’s colonial history and struggle for independence is the most interesting display.
Built in celebration of the 1994 military coup, Arch 22 is the country’s tallest building. The Senegalese-designed gateway contains a small museum about the coup d’etat and a cozy cafe, but the real draw is the view from the top-floor balconies.
Just outside the city lies the Tanbi Wetland Complex, established in 2001 as a protected wildlife area that spans more than 4,500 hectares. Nearly 80 percent of the reserve is made of numerous species of mangroves, but the natural vegetation also includes salt marshes, grass woodlands and bare flats. Tidal creeks and lagoons cut through the reserve in a patchwork fashion, and locals make good use of the water by fishing for shrimp, diving for oysters and growing rice. Wildlife abounds throughout the site, including crocodiles, lizards, small monkeys, manatees and over 360 species of birds. The best way to spot these creatures and explore the wetlands is to hire a local guide from the center of Banjul.
Visitors can also get up close and personal with Banjul’s crocodiles at the Kachikally Museum and Crocodile Pool, used by locals for fertility rituals. About 80 Nile crocodiles call the pool home, and some are allowed to freely roam around the grounds. Visitors can even touch some of the creatures and dip their feet in the sacred waters for a small fee.
A less strenuous way to experience Banjul’s nature is to hop aboard a pirogue, a traditional wooden boat. Pirogues line the Atlantic coast and mangrove-lined Oyster Creek, and most boatmen are happy to share their space with paying tourists. The peaceful trip down the river or coast is a wonderful opportunity for bird-watching.
Spend your evenings in Banjul indulging in grilled fish at a beach bar, sipping on freshly squeeze fruit juice at intimate cafes or gambling at the city’s casino. Most of the capital’s restaurants and bars are affordable, and although there are not many nightclubs, the atmosphere wherever you will be lively, friendly and welcoming.
Banjul Geographical Location
Banjul is on the westernmost coast of The Gambia at the mouth of the Gambia River.
The population of Banjul is approximately 360,000.
English is the official language of The Gambia while Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, and other indigenous languages are also spoken.
Banjul Predominant Religion
- 90% Muslim
- 8% Christian
- 2% Indigenous Beliefs
The Gambia has no official religion and protects the rights of citizens to practice any religion they choose through its constitution.
The Gambian Dalasi is the official currency of The Gambia.
Banjul experiences hot weather throughout the year and a heavy wet season from July to September, the remainder of the year sees almost no rainfall.
Banjul Main Attractions
- River Gambia National Park
- Bijilo Forest Park
- The National Museum
Other Attractions in Banjul
- MacCarthy Square
- Albert Craft Market
- Banjul State House
- Banjul Cathedral